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UFC Argentina predictions: Let’s take a closer look at Magny-Ponzinibbio, Lamas-Elkins

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Lamas vs Oliveira Etzel Espinosa-USA TODAY Sports

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is charging full steam ahead, which means a mixed martial arts (MMA) fight card every night for the rest of the year (that’s seven, for all you math wizards). That includes the UFC Fight Night 140 event on FOX Sports 1, taking place this Sat. night (Nov. 17, 2018) inside Parque Roca Arena in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Leading the charge will be welterweight title hopefuls Neil Magny and Santiago Ponzinibbio, who may not be mainstream stars (yet), but are definitely in “the mix” with a big performance this weekend. The former sits at No. 8 in the official rankings (see them here), whereas the latter clocks in at No. 10.

Before the 170-pound headliner pops off, former featherweight title contender, Ricardo Lamas, will look to prove he’s not yesterday’s news by turning away the venerable Darren Elkins. Separated by just one spot in the official rankings, this 145-pound showdown is a pivotal fight for both combatants, who are both in their mid-thirties.

Before we go ahead and look at the main and co-main events, be sure to see what pro fighter and resident analyst Andrew Richardson had to say about the rest of the main card bouts by clicking here. In addition, the UFC Fight Night 140 preliminary fights were dissected by the indomitable Patty Stumberg here and here.

Let’s finish the job here and now.

Welterweight: Neil Magny (21-6) vs. Santiago ‘Gente Boa’ Ponzinibbio (26-3)

Biggest Win For Magny? Unanimous decision victory over Carlos Condit
Biggest loss? Submission defeat to Rafael dos Anjos
Biggest Win For Ponzinibbio? Unanimous decision victory over Mike Perry
Biggest loss? Technical knockout defeat to Lorenz Larkin
Latest Odds: Magny (+240) vs. Ponzinibbio (-280)
How these two match up: Consistency is the biggest issue with Magny, who always seems to stumble right at the precipice of greatness. After a dreadful 1-2 start to his UFC career, The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 16 veteran put together seven straight wins with four finishes. Then came a high-profile submission loss to perennial title contender Demian Maia. Certainly no shame in that, and Magny rebounded by winning his next three, including back-to-back victories over Hector Lombard and Kelvin Gastelum. Similarly, his journey to the 170-pound title was derailed by submission, courtesy of former lightweight champion, Rafael dos Anjos. Do we once again put faith in Magny based on his recent wins over Carlos Condit and Craig White?

I think we have to first decide what condition Condit was in during that contest, something that is applicable to earlier victories, as well. “The Natural Born Killer” has dropped four of his last five, Johny Hendricks coughed up five of his last six, and Hector Lombard is the loser of six straight. Was Magny the superior fighter, or the beneficiary of shot journeymen who no longer had the chops to compete at the elite level? I want to put more stock in the Kelvin Gastelum victory, but that was 2015 and the UFC 234 headliner performs far better at middleweight. I think my biggest issue is that Magny looks great, even against “names,” until he faces them in their primes, like Maia and Dos Anjos.

I suppose a similar critique is warranted for Ponzinibbio. The Argentinian has looked outstanding in recent years, capturing eight of 10 under the UFC banner. It’s kind of hard to find the downside to a six-fight win streak, because there really isn't one, but in the interest of objectivity we also need to be real about his level of competition. Mike Perry has dropped three of his last four, Gunnar Nelson is just 3-3 over the last four years, and Nordine Taleb has been finished twice in 2018. I would like to see a signature win that was beyond reproach and right now ... I got nothing. I don’t want to blame “Gente Boa” for that because he’s not the matchmaker and he can only work with the tools he’s given. By that same token, I’m not going crazy over his technical knockout loss to Lorenz Larkin. Not only was it over three years ago, it was just his second defeat since 2011, a span of 11 fights.

This is an interesting clash of styles. Percentage-wise, Magny is by far the more accurate striker, one of the benefits of having an 80-inch reach, which leaves Ponzinibbio at a seven-inch disadvantage. He’s also the more consistent grappler, landing 41 takedowns in 86 attempts. Considering how “Gente Boa” has only attempted nine takedowns in his UFC career, it’s understandable to think he might keep this fight upright, but we also can’t sleep on his takedown defense after stuffing Zak Cummings four out of five times and giving Court McGee nothing in four attempts.

If Magny fights to win, he is likely to cruise to a decision. That would require him to spam the jab and work in well-timed shoots. Does he have the discipline for that? It’s hard to stay focused when a power-punching bruiser is walking you down and dropping bombs. I want to pick Ponzinibbio for the finish, but Magny is such a difficult fighter to figure out because of his length, as well as his craftiness. I’m sure there will be a handful of close calls, but I think Magny lets “Gente Boa” gas himself out while swinging for the fences — in an attempt to please the hometown crowd — before taking over and mopping up the final three frames.

Winner: Magny by unanimous decision

Featherweight: Ricardo ‘The Bully’ Lamas (18-7) vs. Darren ‘The Damage’ Elkins (24-6)

Biggest Win For Lamas? Submission victory over Cub Swanson
Biggest loss? Knockout defeat to Josh Emmett
Biggest Win For Elkins? Submission victory over Michael Johnson
Biggest loss? Unanimous decision defeat to Alexander Volkanovski
Latest Odds: Lamas (-200) vs. Elkins (+170)
How these two match up: Ricardo Lamas is about halfway to his 37th birthday and coming off back-to-back losses to Josh Emmett and Mirsad Bektic. The former is the most troubling, as it represented the fourth time “The Bully” has been stopped by strikes and he was unable to rebound from that loss with a strong performance. In fact, I think we have to go all the way back to his Dennis Bermudez fight to find a victory over a Top 10 opponent. That’s traveling back more than four years and since that time, Lamas has been handily defeated by the upper echelon of the weight class. That includes losses to both Max Holloway and Chad Mendes. Those sorts of defeats would be more forgivable if the Illinoisan was blowing out the mid-card middlemen, but he’s struggling there, too.

His record just doesn’t hold up very well as we start to put some distance between now and the names of yesteryear. How much stock do we put into unanimous decision wins over guys like Hatsu Hioki and Hacran Dias? I’m probably being too hard on him, but my job here is to stack him against an opponent who is looking to take his soul. Regardless of his performances or his consistency, Lamas is, and always was, a complete fighter. He hits with power, has sneaky submissions, and can compete for five rounds without batting an eyelash. As we’ve learned in this unforgiving sport, the physical tools are not enough. Mental acuity, gameplanning, and poise under pressure are also part and parcel of any successful fight.

Everything said about Lamas can, for the most part, be applied to Darren Elkins, an equally battle-tested veteran with a long and fruitful run under the UFC banner. “The Damage” climbed to No. 10 in the official rankings after putting together six straight wins, including January’s submission over former lightweight, Michael Johnson. I’m sure it was massively disappointing for the 34 year-old bruiser to give it all away in his unanimous decision loss to Alexander Volkanovski, but that’s life in the fight game. No doubt a highlight-reel finish over Lamas would go a long way in erasing that memory and let’s face it, the clock is ticking for Elkins, who cannot afford another defeat if he hopes to position himself for a run at the strap.

Elkins, like Lamas, brings with him two post-fight performance bonuses. I don’t think anyone expects this bout to be a snoozefest. I am a bit concerned that “The Damage” has only secured two finishes in his last eight fights, especially when you consider he opened his MMA career by stopping nine of his first 10. By that same token, he’s only been finished once over the last eight years and that came by way of Chad Mendes and his Duane Ludwig-trained fists. His biggest threat is his wrestling, where he won a state championship as a high school senior before hitting the mats at University of Wisconsin Parkside. Elkins scored six takedowns against Steven Siler and seven apiece against Chas Skelly and Rob Whiteford. Lamas is successful in defending about half the shots taken against him, but if Hatsu Hioki can score four of five takedowns, it’s pretty clear to me that when “The Damage” wants to take “The Bully” down, he’s going down. The question remains, what will he do once he gets there?

I like Lamas if this fight stays on the feet, where the reach (71”) is the same for both combatants. He’s the better striker and has more stopping power. I’d probably favor him in the submissions, as well, but only if he’s in top position, unlikely against a grinder like Elkins. Since this is a three-round fight, and the winner only needs to capture two for the victory, I have to side with the wrestler, because judges love those last-second takedowns, even when they yield little-to-no results. I think Lamas will look great in the opening frame, then get walled and stalled in rounds two and three. I’m not anticipating a finish in a fight that may have some fans (and judges) divided when the final numbers are tallied.

Winner: Elkins by split decision

There you have it. will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 140 fight card tomorrow night (click here), starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” undercard bout at 7 p.m. ET, followed by the FOX Sports 1 “Prelims” undercard bouts at 8 p.m. ET, before the main card start time at 10 p.m. ET, also on FOX Sports 1.

To see who else is fighting at UFC Argentina click here.

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